Anyway, the Scene's Nashvillian of the Year, Renata Soto — the driving force behind Casa Azafrán — brought us some of Nelly's delectable alfajores as a way of saying thank you. And we were pretty over the moon for them. The best description I can give: A couple of small, fabulous shortbread cookies with a decadent dab of dulce de leche in between. My. Gawd.
Perhaps suggesting that the cookies are life-changing was a tad hyperbolic. And I'll resist the temptation to describe them as revelatory. (D'oh! I guess I just did.) But seriously, they are really delicious.
Originally from Peru, Nelly Hernandez makes the alfajores in her home kitchen. They aren't available in stores, but she makes them to order for special events. You can find her information here. (She tells us she also makes empanadas.)
As if that wasn't enough, Renata brought another delightful locally made delicacy, Prohibition Popcorn. Think of it as really good kettle corn with a touch of whiskey thrown in. Yum.
And both treats are further evidence of Casa Azafrán's good works. Hernandez is a graduate of Casa Azafrán's small business program, and Prohibition Popcorn is made in Casa Azafrán's commercial kitchen, Mesa Komal.
But apparently, even a magnanimous act like going door-to-door to share some Christmas cheer is not immune to a little bit of fun competition. This Sunday, Dec. 15, Edley's Bar-B-Que at at 908 Main St. will host a day of caroling, barbecue and holiday family festivities to benefit Fannie Battle’s monthlong Caroling for Kids initiative. Here's the skinny on the event:
Festivities begin at 2 p.m. at Edley’s East, with the Battle of the Carolers kicking off at 3 p.m.; attendees will enjoy seasonal festivities during the day such as photos with Santa (pitmaster Bret Tuck). Between 2 and 6 p.m. Edley’s will serve a buffet of house favorites including pulled pork, half-chickens and sides for $12. The traditional Edley’s menu will also be available. During the event, 10% of proceeds from all purchases (plus additional caroler tipping) benefit Fannie Battle. Of this day of caroling for a cause, Edley’s founder Catharine Newman says “We’re proud to rally behind Fannie Battle and the incredible longtime work they’ve done for Nashville’s children in need. We hope to make this a memorable day and are looking forward to raising funds for this wonderful organization.”
What a great way to take the kids for the annual Santa photo, get some excellent barbecue and help a good cause at the same time!
Actually, the Spinellis are handling the first one themselves as they present a traditional Italian Christmas Eve "Feast of the Seven Fishes" dinner. To allow their patrons and the restaurant staff to spend time with their families, perl is planning their dinner for Saturday, Dec. 21, starting at 6 p.m.. Ticket prices are $75/person and include a seven-course meal and nonalcoholic beverages. The event will be at perl, a BYOB establishment, and there will be no corkage fee for this event. Reservations are required and can be made by calling (615) 646-1390 or emailing email@example.com. Check out the menu:
Frankly, in my experience, few restaurant dishes get botched as frequently as fried green tomatoes. I really like Etch, but the fried green tomatoes I had as part of chicken entrée were not good. Granted, they were advertised as tempura green tomatoes, but regardless, the tomato inside was nearly solid as a rock.
My favorite iteration of the Southern specialty can be found at Lockeland Table, served as a part of the restaurant's Bibb wedge salad. They are thinly sliced, lightly breaded, cooked until tender, served with pepper jelly. Nothing fancy, but perfectly executed. I've had decent ones at Arnold's, though they can skew a little salty.
My Bites compatriot Dana Kopp Franklin says Merchants does a fine job with fried green tomatoes. I have not tried them there.
Who serves your favorite fried green tomatoes? And what are your criteria for properly executed fried green tomatoes?
What else is on your mind?
[ Tea Party sirens go off ]
NOT THAT KIND OF PROBLEM.
I mean Mexican restaurants. Specifically, upscale Mexican. I was thinking about this a lot while working on the review for Saint Añejo, the new M Street cantina that recently opened.
(I don't want to belabor Saint Añejo it too much. I loved the space and the service, didn't like the food. You can read about it here.)
I haven't been to Alegria yet in Green Hills. Carrington went last year and liked it: "To be sure, Alegria's cuisine is more than just a bean-and-cheese-slathered sidekick to its strawberry-, jalapeno-, cilantro- and peach-infused margaritas."
Opinions seem pretty divided on Cantina Laredo in the Gulch. I know some people who swear by it and others who won't go back. I can take it or leave it, but that's just my point: There's a dearth of really refined places, much less any that delve into regional specialties.
It just takes one trip down Nolensville Road to know that Nashville has a wealth of great Mexican and Central American options. But that's not what I'm talking about here. How many Mexican/Tex-Mex menus elsewhere in the city run the predictable gamut of tacos-fajitas-enchiladas-burritos-carne-asada-insert-dish-here? Most.
And it's not that there's anything particularly wrong with that — I've spent time in a couple of Las Palmas locations, so I'm no aesthete, here — but where is the place that is willing to use Mexican cuisine as a viewpoint and not a set of handcuffs to the same menu we've been eating off of for years?
If you're a Top Chef fan, you've probably seen the work of Carlos Gaytan, whose Mexique in Chicago marries technique honed in French restaurants with a point of view that is uniquely Mexican. The result? A Michelin star this year and last. I think Nashville would go nuts for that kind of place.
What do you think? Is there a place that I'm missing? Do you have a go-to place for really good Mexican?
The result is a nice, light wine that is enjoyable and easy to drink. I recently brought my review bottle to a dinner of (vegetarian) Indian food — thinking that the pairing would be appropriate — but we finished the wine before we were even seated. It starts fruity with a hint of honey and finishes with a taste of citrus, but it’s still rather dry. I didn’t feel a spike in my blood sugar like I do with some whites, though its drinkability let it sneak up on me. I had to slow my roll at the beginning of my second glass.
Overall, it works quite well with light hors d’oeuvres but would also pair quite nicely with a dinner of pasta, fish, and/or light meats. It also stands on its own. At roughly $15-ish per bottle, it’s certainly worth a try.
If you prefer a red — or your occasion calls for it — Masi produces a sister wine to the Masianco, a red dubbed Campofiorin (actually Masi’s first “Supervenetian”). The Campofiorin is more commonly known (from other vintners) as Ripasso, but the Masi wine is made from Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara grapes, with a portion of the grapes dried and shriveled for a second fermentation.
My review wine was the Campofiorin 2009, which was a very pleasant and drinkable wine, though best paired with hard cheeses instead of light hors d’oeuvres or on its own. It’s defintely suitable to eat with a hearty Italian cuisine or rich holiday dinners that include roasted or grilled meats. The wine is a deep red with notes of cherry and spices, finishing with a hint of chocolate. It was clear from the taste why the Campofiorin is one of Masi’s most popular wines. Retail price hovers around $18 per bottle, so it’s a perfect holiday dinner party wine.
For the official grand opening, The Southern Steak and Oyster will be providing the eats, and Elizabeth Eckert and The Gypsy Hombres will entertain the crowd from 5 to 9 p.m. Tennessee Brew Works' variety of beers has started to show up at growler fill stations, bars and restaurants all over town, so it's easier than ever to try out some of their wares. For more info, visit tnbrew.com.
Kennard will start work on Jan. 20, the mayor's office said today. In the announcement of her appointment, Mayor Karl Dean alluded to the Farmers' Market's role in tourism and promoting Nashville's current momentum as a food city.
“The Farmers’ Market is a gem in our city and seeing it become a major attraction and gathering place is important to me,” Dean said in the release. “Tasha comes to us with the ability and energy to further develop the Farmers’ Market into a premier destination where local residents and visitors have access to fresh, local produce, diverse dining options and workshops that educate on choosing and preparing healthy food. I appreciate the Farmers’ Market Board for sharing this vision with me and bringing Tasha on board to help us realize it.”
Kennard had been with Second Harvest for eight years. Her projects included fundraising campaigns, volunteer services programs and Together We Grow, a children’s container garden and nutrition program serving at-risk youth in Davidson County.
"I love this restaurant," Anderson says of Catbird Seat. But he also loves his fiancée Malone, named a 2013 Best New Chef in Food & Wine. "I was also getting offers to open my own place in Minnesota. It just made more sense for me to move there than for her to move here."
Anderson said the concept and business plan for his new restaurant in Minnesota are set; he's working to flesh out the financing and select the right space.
Opened in 2011 to near universal acclaim, The Catbird Seat quickly shot to prominence on both the local and national dining scene. It was a unique setup, with Anderson sharing the chef duties with Josh Habiger at the center of a 32-seat chef's bar above the Patterson House in Midtown. The restaurant was named a finalist for a James Beard award as best new restaurant in America.
The Catbird Seat also began showing up in seemingly every national publication that covers dining, with magazines from Food & Wine to Esquire writing about the restaurant's unique setup: two chefs cooking in a tiny, open kitchen before patrons. At a flat $100 per customer for a set tasting menu (and optional beverage pairings), it was like nothing else in Nashville dining (and pretty novel in the nation as a whole).
The good news for Catbird fans is that its owners at Strategic Hospitality plan to continue the restaurant. The company released this statement today:
Nashville has had a few decent spots for aspiring chefs to learn the trade, but with the rapid expansion of the hospitality industry, many of the graduates have been immediately pulled into hotel and convention center kitchens. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s a gig.)
Nashville restaurateur Randy Rayburn has been instrumental in working to expand the educational opportunities for aspiring chefs, and he was acknowledged for his efforts with the honor of having the cooking school at Nashville State Community College (Nashville Tech to old heads like me) named after him. But his work didn’t stop there, and last month Mayor Karl Dean, Randy Rayburn, Nashville State representatives, Piedmont Natural Gas Foundation and Company executives unveiled the new culinary arts facility at the Southeast Campus of Nashville State Community College near Hickory Hollow.
Arnold's: Because a good fried green tomato needs no accompaniment.
Arnold's fried green tomatoes. /end of thread.
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